500 Reasons to Experiment With Adobe Photoshop

Reason #178: “Post-Production Miracles”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after years as a professional art director, it’s that great photographs don’t always just happen. Occasionally, you’ll land on a perfect setup with the lighting just right and you’re even lucky enough to have your camera with you. But, for the most part, great photos take a lot of thought and planning.

When I’m shooting photographs for advertising, we try to plan for the things that won’t go perfectly. Then, when the shoot is over, we can fix those things later (or what we call, “Post-Production”) in Photoshop.

So, now whenever my wife and I are on vacation or at one of the kid’s sporting events, and we’re taking pictures that may or may not be everything that we want them to be; the joke in our family is, “Don’t worry, Daddy will fix it in post!”

I’m going to show you how you can do it too.

Let’s say you snap a great picture of your young one right before the big game. This will no doubt bring back tearful memories in years to come or it could, based on the background, bring back tearful memories of that nasty old fence in your back yard!

So, how do we fix it? Well, you either move your young sportsman to a better location, thus ruining the spontaneity of the moment, or you let Photoshop bring the better location to you. With a little thought and practice, you can remove the less attractive background and seamlessly replace it with something better.

I find that the world is filled with better backgrounds just waiting to be shot. So, take a ride to the baseball field at your local school or take an extra digital shot when you’re at a professional baseball game. The point is to take a background photo that leaves a “parking space” for your subject to inhabit.

I’ll use this one.

As you can see, it’s a very simple background, but a definite step up from the back yard clutter.

The next question is: How do I get rid of the background on my existing picture. Well, there are several ways. Photoshop has masking tools, outlining tools and even a Magic
Wand tool (we’ll use that later!) But for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to “erase” what we don’t want (the yard and fence) and leave what we do want (the leaping baseball boy).

In Photoshop’s tool palette, you will see an eraser tool.

After you select the eraser tool, you will notice a pull down menu of “Brush Options” (shown in the picture below) that gives you the choice of large or small brush sizes. (Also hard-edged or soft-edged).

We’re going to use a smaller brush (approximately nine pixels wide). So, click on the brush palette, hold and scroll down to the circle shaped hard-edged brush that says 9. Don’t be intimidated. Just follow me!

A digital eraser works just like the back end of a pencil, only much cooler and with no little pieces of rubber to brush away. You just need to get used to the whole hand-eye coordination thing. Just drag the eraser onto your image and erase away. If you make a mistake, don’t worry! Just go to Edit, Undo or hit Ctrl + Z.

Here’s the best part! After you’ve erased everything from your photo that you don’t want to keep, you need to select what you do want to keep. We’ll use the Magic Wand for this. You’ll find it in the tool palette. Click on it, drag it to your image and left click (Win) on the portion that you’ve erased (this area should be white). The Magic wand will make this whole area a selection (you’ll see a dancing marquee around the erased area of the photo). Now, go to Select, choose Inverse (or Ctrl + Shift + I) and Photoshop will select the opposite of what you’ve erased.

To move this selection into the new background file, go to Edit and choose Copy.
Now, open your new background file. Again, choose Edit and Paste.

With a little sizing, (Edit, Transform, Scale) we’ve created a convincing image that’s much more fun. This also works great for the kids’ team pictures! How cool is the team going to look with a stadium background instead of a brick wall? Very!

So, now you too can amaze your kids and befuddle your friends as you “Fix it in Post” like the pros!

~ Dominic Russo